Two employment tribunal decisions demonstrate that individuals who are discriminated against for not having a particular religion or belief are protected by the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
Prospects is a Christian charity that helps adults with learning difficulties. It introduced a recruitment policy requiring that its posts, with the exception of some administrative positions, be filled by practising Christians. Prospects already employed non-Christian employees in some of these posts and, although they were not dismissed, they were told that they could not be promoted. This policy eventually led to two employees resigning and claiming constructive dismissal and religious discrimination.
In Sheridan v Prospects  ET/2901366/06 and Hender v Prospects  ET/2902090/06, it was found that this sweeping recruitment policy requiring Christian staff was discriminatory. Although the jobs in question did have a religious element (for example, staff could be required to provide "spiritual support" to individuals being helped by the charity), this element fell well below the level that would have given Prospects the defence that being a Christian was a genuine occupational requirement.
The decisions show that employers that seek to recruit only those who hold a particular religious belief are discriminating against all who do not hold that belief, unless they can show that there is a genuine occupational requirement. The original Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, didn't specifically mention lack of religion or belief, but this was added by amendments made on 30 April 2007.
The cases also show the limited scope of the genuine occupational requirement in discrimination cases. It can be legitimate for an employer with a religious ethos to apply an occupational requirement to certain jobs with a significant religious element that could not be carried out by individuals not of that religion. However, it is discriminatory for an employer to apply an occupational requirement to all its job simply because the organisation has a religious ethos.
Read a summary and the full transcripts of the cases on the British Humanist Society website.